I woke up this morning bright-eyed (Well, kind, it’s allergy season so they were red. I should say bright-eyed in my mind, if that makes any sense.) and bushy-tailed and ready to start my writing day! Usually, I’m slow to wake up and huddle on my couch reading as my mind begins to work. What changed, you ask?
Only that I got to see Laini Taylor, author of the fabulous and bestselling The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Strange the Dreamer (among other works which I have not read) speak in person last night (really a week ago as you read this)!
It was very surreal to see someone I admire so much and revere as sort of a rockstar in the fantasy industry a mere twenty-feet from me. Laini with her bright pink hair and quick smile stuck out amidst the star-struck fans sitting in The Old Church in Portland, OR.
Listening to Laini, I realized that while we were in the same Hogwarts house (Gryffindor! In case there was any question) our processes for writing were pretty different. She claimed to spend months writing the first act of a novel, often crafting it a dozen times before moving on (she’s a discovery writer who uses very vague outlines). For me, the start of the novel is the easiest. I think because I’ve generally pre-thought things out fairly well, but it could also be that Laini’s plots are simply more complex than mine so I don’t need as many re-writes. She’s not a best-selling author for no reason, after all. While Laini may be slow to begin her novel, she’s quick to finish it, one time writing 26K in a week to sprint to the end! She says procrastination (not wanting to crash the publishing machine by being late) is a huge part of this but also, she gains momentum as the story unravels. Sometimes, I feel like I could not be more different! I’m a very regimented writer and rarely procrastinate. However, near the climax of the story, I usually slow down, sometimes freeze. All that action! All that sensory input. It’s overwhelming to write and that’s the part I’ll put off if I can. You could say (and you wouldn’t be wrong) that I’m writing this blog post to do that exact thing . . .
Laini also talked about something I’ve been considering a ton lately, which is building resiliency in my writing. I’ve told many people that I simply can’t write in public. Of course, that’s really not true. If I had to, I could. It may be difficult to concentrate, and I may not get many words in, but I could do it. It’s simply a limiting belief I tell myself to protect my happy little writing bubble. Laini admitted to feeling the same. She couldn’t write in public until her child was born and she had to get out of the house. Now, she writes at home again, but there was totally a period in her life where she wrote in public because otherwise, the story wouldn’t happen. She changed her limiting belief and made shit happen. Just like when she wrote 26-freaking-K in one week. She built her resiliency (my words, not hers) and now, she can write many places. As a writer this is huge. You can work anywhere, not just your comfortable, quiet office, or the single coffee shop you love. Hearing her speak of her journey made me think I need to build my resiliency too. As a matter of fact, I think this is something most writers can work on. Resiliency is a skill that can transfer across aspects of our lives and it will only serve to make us tougher. So, what do you need to work on or confront in your craft? Now, go do it!
One last tidbit I came away with was Laini’s willingness to claim less “literary” words as her inspiration for writing. She cited Harry Potter, which is something I would claim as well, along with other authors I don’t know but I’m sure are great. In short, though her writing is gorgeous, poetic, and prosey she wasn’t a literary snob, which to be honest, I just found so refreshing. She was just herself and what inspired her inspired her.
There were many more moments of compare and contrasting myself to Laini last night (in a good way, not a ‘woe is me, I suck way’ 🙂 )but if I had to say I came away with a cohesive message, it would be this.
We can do more than we think.
All those hard things about writing? Writing the first act to get it done perfectly. Writing in public. Sharing our work. Telling others what really sets us on fire and not what they want to hear. They can all be done. Usually, it’s simply a matter of changing your mindset, building your resiliency, and being willing to be yourself.
And now that I’ve gotten all that out, I’m off to write this climax scene I’ve been putting off! Happy writing!